Monday, 14 February 2011

Review - The Eye of the World

Book One of The Wheel of Time
Author - Robert Jordan
Published by – Orbit

The Wheel of Time turns, and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be and what is, may yet fall under the shadow.
The Wheel of Time books are some of my favourite books I’ve read, I have a huge soft spot for them as along with Terry Brooks Shannara series they were one of my first forays into Fantasy fiction. With the release of the 14th and final volume scheduled for publication in early 2012, I thought it was high time to re-read this mammoth collection of books.  My plan is to read one a month (roughly) which if I include the Prequel New Spring will take me right up to the publication of the final book A Memory of Light. I have previously read up to about volume 8 but that was upwards of about ten years ago and having an admittedly appalling memory I could well be classed as a new reader, I can remember certain plot points and major themes but a hell of a lot of the detail has disappeared into the fog of memory.
So at this juncture I think it may be useful dear reader to give a little background to The Wheel of Time series. Written by Robert Jordan and published by Orbit the first volume The Eye of the World was published way back in 1990. Initially conceived as a six part series it now boasts an impressive 14 volumes and a prequel with the final book due next year. Even with the sad death of the author Robert Jordan in 2007, the series has continued towards it’s conclusion under the stewardship of Brandon Sanderson with notes left by Jordan himself.
The opening book revolves around the lives of three best friends from a small village of Emond’s Field, Rand, Mat and Perrin and the strange and unexpected direction their lives take. Mysterious things are afoot in the village of Emonds field as the festival of Bel Tine approaches a number of strangers arrive in the village these include a lady and her bodyguard and a travelling gleeman (travelling minstrel). When the village is unexpectedly attacked by Trollocs and Myddraal it is the three young men that appear to have been the target of the attack by the Dark One’s forces. In order to save the village from further attack the boys along with one of the village girls Egwene agree to leave with the lady and her body guard who turn out to be an Aes Sedai (female wizard) called Moiraine and Lan (knight, ranger) her faithful Warder . The Dark One is hunting for one of boys but which one and why? And as they flee for there lives with Dark One’s forces hot on their heels can their new friends by trusted? Or are they just part of a bigger pattern being woven by the Wheel of Time?
As part of these reviews I will not be trying to pull all of Jordan’s plot strings together, frankly I think that job is beyond my capabilities you need a huge pin board and a lot of string I think, hopefully I will be able to give an overview of the book as well as a few of my thoughts.
So, The Wheel of Time it could be argued is Fantasy by the numbers with a lot of the genres tropes being wheeled out and checked off but where Jordan succeeds with this book and indeed with all the books is the sense of scale and world building. This world spring’s fully formed from Jordan’s mind and for me it’s a pleasure to discover the history and revel in the details. For me it’s the journey that important and not the destination and there’s a lot of journey even in the first book. The rich detail of the Wheel of Time, the True Source, of Saidan and Saidar, the breaking, Tar Valon and the Aes Sedai I could go on and on there is a lot here to take in, process and think about.
But don’t be put off Jordan at least in the early  books writes at a pace, the opening chapters are a little slow to get going but once our band of heroes flee from Emonds Field the pace doesn’t let up for 500 odd pages.
There are a couple of standout plot points I wanted to mention.
The opening prologue with Lews Therin Kinslayer and the breaking of the world gets me every time, as a new reader your not sure what is going on but you do get a taster of what has come before and what is to come and you also get the first introduction to one of The Foresaken, Ishamael who is a real bad ass and one of my favourite book villains of all time, a truly stunning opening chapter.
Also the towards the end of the book the gang visit Fal Dara in the Blight, these hard arse bastards are the first line of defence against the Dark One’s forces and the encroaching Blight and when a certain someone scales the walls (no spoilers) things really get going.
My only problem with the book is the end and the confrontation at the Eye of World, it’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination, it just seems a little rushed to me with the reveal of one of the characters possibly being the prophesied Dragon but seeing as there’s more on that in later volumes it’s hardy a big deal.
So there we have it one down and thirteen to go – gulp, I’m going to rate these books out of seven (spokes on the Wheel of Time people, keep up) and give the Eye of the World
Seven spokes out of seven – a brilliant start with a stunning eye for detail

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